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Bellevue endorses Vision Zero

Screen Shot 2015-12-10 at 12.13.22 PMThe Bellevue City Council unanimously endorsed Vision Zero Monday, setting a goal of zero deaths and serious injuries on Bellevue streets by 2030.

In fact, there was very little discussion or debate about the resolution (PDF), which sailed right through. You can watch the very short proceedings here or in the video posted below.

“I know there’s still a tremendous amount of work to be done” to integrate the policy into the city’s comprehensive plan and the bike/walk initiative we reported about previously.

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The resolution does not itself do anything direct, like funding specific safe streets projects. But it does realign Bellevue’s often car-movement-at-all-costs point of view evident by anyone trying to walk or bike in many parts of the major Eastside city. The staff memo (PDF) for the resolution acknowledges the role of “unforgiving” street design in the deaths and injuries of people on Bellevue streets:

At the core of Vision Zero is the belief that death and injury on city streets is preventable—that, for the most part, these are not “accidents” that occur but collisions that could be avoided. Collisions are often the result of poor behaviors and unforgiving roadway designs, so the problem must be approached from multiple angles: street designs that emphasize safety for the most vulnerable users, predictability and the potential for human error, coupled with targeted education and data-driven enforcement efforts.

Cascade Bicycle Club notes that there have been 450 collisions involving people walking in Bellevue in the past ten years. That’s nearly one a week. So protecting vulnerable road users is a major requirement if the city is going to achieve Vision Zero.

The Bellevue staff memo also notes these ways the city can work toward the goal:

  • Designing streets to encourage safe behavior, provide facilities to accommodate all travel modes, and protects the most vulnerable users.
  • Building a complete and connected non-motorized transportation network that supports people walking and bicycling: creating safe mobility options through separation from moving vehicles, reducing vehicle speeds, and designing facilities for people who are not able to move very quickly.
  • Educating the community to instill awareness and respect for one another as we share our streets. This education component may include the possibility of supporting a change in state laws on driver education.
  • Consistently enforce traffic safety laws with focused effort on our highest crash roadways and adjacent to places that attract our most vulnerable road users.

Cascade Bicycle Club’s Eastside Advocacy Manager McKayla Dunfey praised the resolution in a recent blog post:

Bellevue now joins the ranks of many cities around the country, including Seattle, Kenmore and Kirkland, that embrace road safety through Vision Zero. This is a big win for everyone who wants to more comfortably and safely walk and ride a bicycle in Bellevue.

In a council meeting on Monday, Dec. 7, Mayor Claudia Balducci emphasized the importance of moving quickly to adopt this resolution. While the adoption of this resolution represents real progress, Balducci acknowledged that it is just the beginning, and Bellevue still has a “tremendous amount of work to be done,” particularly in respect to incorporating Vision Zero strategies into the city’s Comprehensive Plan and the Pedestrian and Bicycle Implementation Initiative. Vision Zero means redesigning our streets, lowering speeds, connecting neighborhoods and providing road safety education and enforcement.

With over 450 collisions involving pedestrians and 15 overall traffic deaths in the last 10 years as a result of street collisions in Bellevue, the city’s adoption of this resolution is a critical first step.

Here’s the video:

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17 responses to “Bellevue endorses Vision Zero”

  1. This is a good first step, but we need concrete actions to achieve the vision.

    Bellevue should start by updating its rules of the road. For instance, rather than relying on the outdated Model Traffic Ordinance, it should to add a law making it clear that motor vehicles must yield to bicyclists in a bike lane.

    Seattle has this law: https://www.municode.com/library/wa/seattle/codes/municipal_code?nodeId=TIT11VETR_SUBTITLE_ITRCO_PT5DRRU_CH11.53VEPOROVEPA_11.53.190DRBILA

    Bellevue does not: http://www.codepublishing.com/wa/bellevue/

    More about these laws: http://www.washingtonbikelaw.com/amicus_personae/bike_law_WA_state.html

  2. William

    It is great that Bellevue is now committed to improving street safety but by promoting an unachievable vision they will be less accountable than had they adopted and publicized a challenging but achievable goal to reduce accidents and deaths by 50% or whatever. As an analogy, who is holding King County accountable for the total failure to reduce homelessness despite a vision to reduce it to zero by now.

  3. AW

    I do not see how they can achieve any of this when they refuse to hold the people who cause collisions responsible. One example – just a traffic ticket for the person who caused the toddler’s death a couple of months ago at 140th Av and Bel Red.

  4. ZeGerman

    It’s a silly name for a goal that is not attainable, but the push to reduce deaths and injuries is commendable.

  5. jwalseth

    I bike commuted through Bellevue for 4 years. Downtown Bellevue is one of the worst places for bicycling I have experienced. I felt like Kemper Freeman really wanted me to die. So when the mayor says “Vision Zero means redesigning our streets” I hope she means it.

    1. Jonathan


      Your comment might sound like hyperbole but I remember a while ago walking near the intersection of NE 8 and 112 NE, seeing one person on a bicycle, and feeling quite seriously concerned for that person’s life.

  6. Vision Zero in Bellevue is basically a non-issue for cycling. There’s no cycling network to speak of, on which cycling safety needs to be improved!

    Bellevue is, right now, in the process of building new and expanded 5-lane arterial roads for basic local business access (the big NE 4th Street and 120th Ave project), as if it were 1975. These new stroads have five-foot bike lanes along them, interrupted regularly by commercial driveways. This is to say, Bellevue is, right now, in the process of building a bike network… with obvious safety deficiencies! In fact, some of Bellevue’s other recent transportation projects have explicitly included bike facilities (e.g. NE 12th bridge rebuild, 108th and Northup near 520, Eastgate Way, Lake Sammamish Parkway, I think some stuff on Kamber), but they’re starting from such a sparse network that they’re still mostly disconnected. In another decade they’ll be where Seattle was five years ago or where Kirkland is today, where the safety problems on the bike network really matter to people other than out-of-town bike advocates.

    For now, Vision Zero in Bellevue is about walking and driving. Poor sidewalk lighting and road design that encourages excessive speeds, especially in intersections, especially when turning. That’s really important stuff! I hope they take it seriously.

    1. Adam

      I’m worried that the Vision Zero “brand” is going to be–if it’s not already–diluted to the point of irrelevance thanks to municipalities spouting platitudes and passing toothless resolutions while continuing ever onwards with business as usual. I have very, very low expectations that anything worthwhile will come out of Bellevue passing this. Until Bellevue stops being Bellevue, I expect that Bellevue will continue being Bellevue.

  7. […] Yes to safety: The City of Bellevue adopted an ordinance endorsing Vision Zero principles. […]

  8. I don’t understand all of the negativity in reaction to this resolution, and I’m pretty cynical about Bellevue. Yes, Bellevue is mostly a miserable place to walk, run, or bike today, and there are bad projects still in the pipeline. However, if it’s going to turn around, it has to start somewhere. The ped/bike initiative survey has given them actual data (and a lot of it) – both of problems that existing users face and the number of people who simply avoid the city. Some staff seem to understand. Now we have the council giving a pretty clear directive from above. Of course this doesn’t mean there’s going to be smooth or quick progress ahead. There is still clearly a cars-at-all-costs contingent that will hamper these efforts.

    Vision Zero is the proper goal and overall vision to set. There should be no compromises on safety that any lesser goal would allow. The goal date is obviously fairly arbitrary (it’s amazing that these goals are always expected to be met in some multiple of five years), but it’s close enough that work needs to start happening now. But now we can look at any particular incident in Bellevue, and the first question can be “how will be prevent this from happening again?” rather than “is this one of the acceptable ones?” Of course, hopefully we can be proactive as well.

    When I’m feeling particularly optimistic, I see a lot of opportunity in the ROW that has already been carved out for those huge roads. Those moments are rare, but the passage of this resolution is one of them.

    1. So Seattle, Kenmore, Kirkland, and now Bellevue have “embraced” Vision Zero.

      – Seattle “embraced” Vision Zero shortly after rebuilds of parts of 85th and Holman/105th/Northgate Way where it essentially shrugged its shoulders at the Complete Streets guidelines and did nothing to improve east-west cycling connections where they’re grossly deficient.

      – Kirkland “embraced” Vision Zero shortly after its prosecutor declined to pursue any charges against a left-turning driver that killed a pedestrian crossing the street in the crosswalk with the walk signal, and published a paper defending the driver, because Priuses have a blind-spot, and blind-spots apparently absolve drivers of the responsibility to approach intersections at speeds that allow them to scan crosswalks before turning across them. This is particularly notable because it’s a statement in direct opposition to Vision Zero, put forward by an official representative of Kirkland, and as far as I can tell, has not received any comment or refutation from the elected officials talking about Vision Zero today. It calls into question these officials’ basic understanding of the issues they’re now taking a stand on.

      – Bellevue just “embraced” Vision Zero before the asphalt is dry on new stroads just east of 405. Actual proper stroads, designed to be both high-capacity car thoroughfares and primary local business access, designs proven over decades to discourage people from using them outside of private cars and to injure those that try. Bellevue’s council passed the Vision Zero measure unanimously, yet some members of that same council opposed use of street ROW to build a bike network on the grounds of car congestion that might occur under hypothetical car-traffic growth, just months ago.

      Vision Zero is a meme started in, IIRC, some level of government in Sweden. It was stated just right to catch on in progressive cities throughout the world. It touches on the progressive theme of sustainability, and the growing progressive theme of protection of the vulnerable (even as it can, as progressive rhetoric sometimes does, cast the “vulnerable” as an other). It affirms the power and centrality of government (compare the bottom-up story we tell about the Netherlands’ movement against road deaths, and its experiments in road design, which were critical to establish designs we now call “proven”). So these words echo in the city halls of Seattle, Kirkland, Kenmore, and now Bellevue. But these halls are yet filled with the echos of opposing statements, made by the same people, or by officials on their watch. How can these leaders honestly endorse Vision Zero without addressing their very recent actions against the same principles, when these principles were held up by the people? Consider all the politicians that switched positions to endorse same-sex marriage in the last few years: any one with any profile had to at least make a sheepish statement about their change of heart. Have Bellevue’s elected leaders had a change of heart about using 5-lane stroads for business access, and have some of them had a change of heart about using street space to connect Bellevue’s cycling network in our lifetimes? Have Kirkland’s elected leaders had a change of heart about their prosecutor playing defense attorney for irresponsible killer drivers? Do Seattle’s elected leaders have any opinions at all now about applying their broad principles to any actual projects on the ground?

      1. Every Bellevue councilmember needs to answer for 120th Ave NE. I understand that in some ways it represents progress for Bellevue, but it is in no way a Vision Zero design. It’s a design that discourages people from biking and walking and injures those that do. It’s the only access for a lot of businesses, and it’s a necessary bike and pedestrian route in Bellevue’s present and future street network.

        Why is a city with a council that unanimously endorses Vision Zero building non-Vision Zero roads, without any opposition from the council on Vision Zero grounds? Can any members of this council even put the construction of such roads in the context of Vision Zero? The only honest context I see is that they’ll get some cyclists out on the road, in these dangerous conditions, to advocate for something better. Any injuries they suffer would have to be considered acceptable losses, sacrifices at the altar of car capacity, which is being increased dramatically in the project.

      2. Yes, these cities all have terrible past and current projects, but I contend that they are easier to ask (and complain) about with a Vision Zero resolution in place. If these cities weren’t doing anything wrong, then a Vision Zero resolution wouldn’t be meaningful.

        You seem to be saying that they are outright lying. I don’t believe that. I do believe that they haven’t really internalized what all of this really means, and the battle will continue. (I think this is especially true in Kirkland, where I pay more attention.) However, I think we’re in a better place when we can point to an official Vision Zero policy. In fact, I’m going to take this as validation that they want safety feedback. I’m pretty sure that Bellevue does have money set aside for safety, and the ped/bike interviews and map are being used to prioritize the spending.

        The Kirkland resolution is a bit of a mystery to me. The resolution itself is strongly worded, but the underlying Transportation Master Plan has weakened language. I’m already pushing them on this. On the other hand, they have spent a lot of effort (and words) describing non-car-centric details. Now they need to act on it, but I can’t see how our position would be better with no Vision Zero resolution or a car-centric TMP. Something along the lines of BellevueTheBikable’s list would be a great next layer of detail.

  9. AP

    @Mark, hating on Bellevue is pretty common for Seattle. Move on.

    I hope there is some good effect from this resolution. I have some doubts, but what you say is accurate.

  10. BellevueTheBikable

    Put me in the skeptical camp. Which army is going to redesign and reconstruct every paved surface in Bellevue prior to 2030? They aren’t planning to go on a hiring frenzy and fund the level of spending required to fix that mess in 15 years right? Even if they contracted the project to the Dutch and gave them a blank check, theres the expression “you can’t have a baby in one month by getting nine women pregnant.” It will take time, more time than 15 years. How can they even put a date out there without a shred of experience designing safe infrastructure for all users? They need to do it once to even make a serious estimate.

    Ok, so they don’t seriously mean 2030, that’s a given. I’ll stop beating up on the date. If we can see Bellevue implement a single innovative (by American standards) street design that protects all users, then we can start being serious. And by serious, I mean a realistic implementation schedule and budget, with Bellevue putting their money where their mouth is.

    If we want a meaningful declaration, how about this?

    1) All new designs shall follow the best guidelines available with regards to pedestrian and cycling safety. This includes prioritizing peoples lives over calculated motorized traffic throughput.
    2) A portion of the yearly budget shall be set aside to revise existing infrastructure where fatalities or major injuries occur. These projects will occur on an as-needed basis in response to collisions as quickly as possible.
    3) The worst offending infrastructure in Bellevue shall be replaced or reconfigured prior to end-of-life according to a prioritized schedule according to user feedback/studies.

    Let’s see Bellevue get to work.

  11. […] City Council also endorsed Vision Zero in December, calling for safer streets to end traffic deaths and serious injuries in the […]

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